First Impressions

Play by play announcer Dan Kelly's Pre-game blog

Fire First Impressions by Dan Kelly, Chicago Fire Soccer
Club Play by Play Announcer

It’s always fascinating to see how right or wrong your
initial impressions are when joining a new work environment.  As a play by play broadcaster, part of my job
is to make instant assessments – what’s important enough to raise the
inflection of your voice, or was that a stoppable ball, or who was that pass
intended for?  Sometimes you are right,
and the other times…well let’s just say that is the beauty of sport and soccer
in particular because it’s unscripted, unpredictable live theatre.   At times it’s a guessing game, and a
beautiful one at that.  Here are some quick
observations and impressions after my first month on the job.

Brian McBride

He looks and reminds me of hockey star Wayne Gretzky, who’s also
a great ambassador for his sport.  But
it’s the intelligence, dedication, drive, and passion that stands out with most
stars, not just natural talents.  When talking
to Brian McBride you don’t have to be an expert to see why this man is
successful.  If you are a young player on
the Fire, it might be wise to take a gander at number 20, and do and act like
him… will be a nice foundation for a prosperous and enjoyable career.

Get Microsoft Silverlight

Carlos De Los Cobos

The most underrated aspect of a coach in pro or collegiate
sports is presence.  Different culture,
different language, strange new land and brand of soccer, is not a problem for
Coach Carlos.  I love his fearless
attitude with the English language.  I
wish more coaches would think more before they speak or spout off.  I think it says a lot about the man in charge
of leading the Men in Red.  He speaks
with passion, commands respect, and communicates his message.  And considering some of the early changes we
have seen with a new keeper, new formations, and new roles, the man is not shy
about making tough decisions and sticking to his beliefs.  Plus, it never hurts to look the part on the
touchline –  just ask former Cowboy coach
Tom Landry or Lakers leader Pat Riley.  Carlos
is a cross between those two, looking dignified and stylish at the same

CJ Brown and Wilman Conde

These fierce defenders have been heavily counted on in the
early going.  Wilman is just a beast and has
the talent to go along with his vision and determination.  CJ, is the kind of leader you don’t want
disappoint.  I am guessing that his
leadership, along with some other veterans, is a big reason why the Fire’s
early struggles didn’t continue to fester. 

Frank Klopas

Smooth and passionate, and another guy who holds firm in his
beliefs.  Indecision and lack of
conviction are not good traits to have in a sports manager.  I have not seen a trace of any of that in Frank.  Confident, charming, and most importantly,
believes in what he and the club are doing. 
I loved having a chance to chat with him briefly on match day in D.C.  At the time his club was winless, and
pressure was mounting a little, and there was a chance the Fire would be the only
winless team in MLS…well, a lot was at stake that evening.  But after talking to Frank along with Coach
De Los Cobos, you truly got the impression that they believed in the goods they
had.  I am guessing that Frank didn’t
point fingers when he was a player, but instead his thumb right back to
himself, holding himself accountable before his teammates.

Andrew Dykstra

A twenty-four year old keeper that never stops smiling,
especially lately now that the pressure has subsided – he now has two straight
wins and clean sheets to his credit. 
Again, I like this kid’s mental makeup. 
Not easy since he surprisingly was given the car keys to the club with
the starting assignment role.  His first
match, in that sparkling new Red Bull Stadium and on that little network named
ESPN, I thought, go get ‘em kid.  And to
his credit, he has…after some initial stumbles. 
This kid is resilient.  He has the
honor of having a military father, Dan Dykstra, who proudly retired as a marine
colonel. He has a natural, easy going disposition that was probably developed
as  he moved around from base to base as
a youth.  The funny thing, I get the
impression that he gets his toughness from his mom, Heidi, who he says is the
parent that usually is doing the soccer critiquing.  His only flaw, he cheers for Michigan sports
teams, which he got from Colonel Dykstra. Well, I guess Dad isn’t right all the
time after all.

Chris Doran

He’s a man who lives and breathes soccer.  He is a teacher at heart.  Passionate about that game, but patient
enough to teach those who are eager to learn. 
A fountain of knowledge, not just of MLS, but has the pulse of the
collegiate soccer scene, which is pretty valuable considering we see many
collegians roam MLS fields.  Underrated
sense of humor and a dry wit, which needs to be exposed more frequently on
Comcast SportsNet.  I guess that is my
job though.  I also love the respect and
admiration he has for anyone intelligent enough to love the beautiful
game.  If you are wearing a Liverpool
jersey in a parking garage, Chris will ask you about the match as he drives
around looking for a parking space. His passion for soccer does not rest.

Marco Pappa and Patrick Nyarko

First, the poise and relaxation of Marco is impressive.  He lines up a shot on frame during a match
the same way he does in training.  No
panic, not always perfect, but smooth and relaxed.  It’s actually graceful to witness up
close.  For some reason his shots don’t
make as much noise as others, but they certainly find the back of the net.  The first thing that is noticeable about
Patrick Nyarko is the speed.  But a lot
of players are fast without the ball. 
But Patrick doesn’t seem to be slowed down by having precious
possession.  He can dazzle with the feet
at a high rate of speed, and of course dish off delicious feeds to hungry
teammates.  It’s such a good sign when a
young player wants the ball in crucial situations, and does not fear making
mistakes. That’s the place that Patrick seems to be right now, and him
possessing the ball has been a very good thing for the Fire.  I would love to see him develop the element of
surprise, and not become predictable to defenders or keepers, and let it rip
every now and  then.  Keep them honest, as many offensive players
like to say.  Nyarko would then have even
more room to create, and that’s a scary thought for the rest of MLS.